Vape Lung Disease Chills Cannabis Industry
On October 1st, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1080 cases of Vape Lung Disease, including 18 deaths. Many of these cases, some claim up to 80%, are suspected to be related to cannabis vaping products. Just like the nicotine e-cigarette industry, the liquids and chemicals in cannabis vape products are not regulated. Some health organizations suggest that the chemicals in vaping liquids combined with unknown chemicals added to cannabis products may be at the heart of the increase in illnesses in cannabis users. Others attribute the disease to e-cigarette/vape product designs that use high heat levels to “vape” liquids. The high heat vaping process creates unusual chemical reactions that may cause damage to lungs. In terms of cannabis products, it’s likely a double-whammy because the cannabis industry has historically operated in illegal settings with zero oversight and a fair number of bad actors, i.e., people who grow or lace products with unknown chemicals.
Cannabis companies, by nature, have a higher risk of government intervention because the product is still federally illegal and considered a Class I drug. Moreover, states that legalized cannabis use, like California, are still struggling to stabilize market conditions—meaning illegal operations maintain a foothold in the industry. Illegal operators are wildcards—there is no way to regulate or monitor the chemicals in their products, creating an increased risk for product contamination. Similarly, legal operators, although regulated to some degree on product quality, are not regulated for vape delivery products.
The high percentage of Vape Lung in cannabis users is frightening consumers and threatens to chill growth in the industry. Although cannabis users can turn to edibles and other delivery mechanisms, it is generally believed that smoking and vaping accelerates levels of THC and CBD into the blood stream and offer a faster and more effective relief of medical symptoms. Over the past few years, vaping has dominated this market as well.
In addition to rapid-onset lung disease, vaping products are reported to cause many other medical problems, including various forms of cancer. Cancer is the one of the key medical conditions that consumers cite for their use of cannabis—and that creates a patient/cannabis industry quandary.
Whether a vape user developed a lung condition from state-legal cannabis use, or from e-cigarette nicotine use, the outcome is the same—devastating, perhaps permanent lung damage or even death. In either case, any company that manufactured, distributed, or was in any way part of the process for sales and commerce in the United States can be sued for reparations to the victim. Product Liability rules could hold each company separately and jointly liable—meaning any one or all of the companies involved can be held liable for 100% of an award for injury. This helps victims because there is a higher chance of recovering compensation for injuries suffered as a result of vaping.